Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art presents visual arts education, theory and criticism from an intersectional feminist perspective. The artist-run centre was founded in 1984, to “encourage and support the intellectual and creative development of women in the visual arts by providing an ongoing forum for education and critical dialogue” (mandate). MAWA now considers the broader spectrum of gender discrimination, and welcomes non-binary, trans and Two-Spirit participants into all programs.
Mentorship is the core activity of the organization, and a mentorship philosophy informs all aspects of MAWA. MAWA mentorships range in duration from 2-12 months, sometimes focussing on a specific media or theme, and often culminate in an exhibition. The in-depth learning that they provide is transformative. Mentorship shares knowledge, experience, networks and support, advancing individual careers and building a healthy, intergenerational arts community.
MAWA residencies provide women and non-binary artists of all career levels the opportunity to research and create in MAWA’s live/work apartment. Exchanges with 3 international residency organizations allow Winnipeg artists to experience new artistic communities and professional opportunities globally.
In addition, MAWA provides a wide variety of accessible visual art programming for people of all genders, such as: artist talks by local, national and international artists; critical reading and discussion groups; workshops in a particular artistic skills; workshops in traditional global and Indigenous artistic practices; professional practices workshops; theoretical lectures; critical writing opportunities; studio visits with established curator; critiques with established critics; film screenings; and a resource centre/lending library. Identity-based groups provide networking, peer support, artistic feedback and access to professional opportunities.
All programs are low-cost or free.
MAWA also undertakes ambitious projects of national significance, such as: the 2014 symposium “Who Counts? A Feminist Art Throwdown”; the 2017 book Desire Change about feminist art in Canada (the first of its kind), co-published with McGill-Queen's University Press; the 2018 cross-country exhibition of Indigenous women artists on billboards, Resilience, curated by Lee-Ann Martin; and, the 2019 publication of Resilience: 50 Indigenous Art Cards and Teaching Guide, distributed free to every public school in Winnipeg to help teachers integrate Indigenous history and knowledge in classrooms from K-12, in all subject areas, through visual art.
As a result of these initiatives and the high quality of MAWA’s more than 20 core programs, in 2018 MAWA was awarded the National Canadian Society of Education through Art “Community Art Education Award”. MAWA gives visual artists the tools to challenge themselves and professionalize their practices, inspiring creativity and criticality, and is a site of visual art engagement for the wider general public